On Friendship, Love, and the Benefits of Aging

Aging WellFor whatever reason, I am confronted with the issues of aging (and death…) a lot over the recent weeks. My mom had to go to the hospital, and in my circle of friends, parents got sick as well – or even died. And while that is distressing and painful emotionally, I know rationally that getting old(er) is nothing to be afraid of. Because getting older (for most of us) means getting happier. We get less anxious, more satisfied, and get to a deeper understanding of the meaning of (our) life.

While being on the plane that brought me to Philly for the MAPP onsite, I watched the movie Last Vegas starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline. It´s a fun-loving, pleasantly over-the-top “geriatric” version of Hangover. Most of all, it´s a story of aging well – and the power of (life-long) friendship.

Triumphs of ExperienceCoincidently, one of the guest lecturers of this month´s MAPP onsite has been (some 80 years old) George Vaillant, who´s been the director of the world-famous (Harvard) Grant Study – which for 75 years followed the lives of 268 physically and mentally healthy Harvard college sophomores from the classes of 1939-1944, and a second cohort of 456 disadvantaged non-delinquent inner-city youths who grew up in Boston neighborhoods between 1940 and 1945. Vaillant writes about the results of this study in his books Aging Well (2003) and Triumphs of Experience (2012). There´s lots of interviews available with Vaillant – here, I´ll point you to one for the Huffington Post. Two main points that came out of the study:

Love is really all that matters.

Connection is crucial.

There you have it. The Beatles were right: All you need is love. My parents will both turn 70 next year. And by March 2014, they will be married for 46 years. I hope that my wife and I one day will achieve the same…

If you´d like to have more input, please watch this TED talk on the benefits of aging by Laura Carstensen who is Director of Stanford´s Center on Longevity.

What makes Life meaningful? 3 Answers for You…

My Direction

One of the letters in Martin Seligman´s PERMA outline of Positive Psychology is M for Meaning (in life). In this post, I would like to point you to three outstanding resources on that topic:

First, check out Maria Popova´s fabulous Brain Pickings site – in this case her essay on Viktor Frankl´s Logotherapy and his conception of meaning in life.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

Second, you might want to have a look at Michael Steger´s TEDx talk – where he explains why and how meaning in life can be a matter of life an death; and what role relationships play in that piece.

And third, here´s a link to a website I discovered recently which contains a psychological test that can help you to find your personal “purpose pattern” (at work). It was created by a team around Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy. I found that some familiar MAPP faces are also associated with that project, namely “Chief Giving Officer” Adam Grant, and Job Crafting Authority Amy Wrzesniewski.

Enjoy!